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Help if you are struggling to meet your tax bills

Inflation is at a ten-year high and the ensuing cost of living crisis means that many people may be struggling to pay the tax that they owe. If this is you, what can you do about it?

While it may be tempting to bury your head in the sand and hope that the bill will magically disappear, this is a really bad idea. Ignoring the problem will in this instance make it worse; HMRC will eventually want their money and have a range of tools available to them to help them achieve this.

It is far better to take control of the situation. Rather than having to pay everything in one go, you may be able to pay in manageable instalments.

Set up an online plan

If you are struggling to pay a self-assessment tax bill you may be able to set up an instalment plan (known as a Time to Pay arrangement) online. To do this, you will need to log in to your Government Gateway account.

A Time to Pay agreement can be set up online if:

  • you have filed your latest tax return;
  • you owe less than £30,000;
  • you are within 60 days of the payment deadline; and
  • you plan to pay your debt off within the next 12 months or less.

Call HMRC

If you are not able to set up an instalment payment plan online, for example, because you owe tax of more than £30,000 or need longer to pay, you can call HMRC’s Self-Assessment helpline to see if you are able to agree one over the phone. The Self-Assessment Payment Helpline number is 0300 200 3822. The helpline is open from 8a.m. to 6p.m. from Monday to Friday.

Information required

You will need certain information to set up a Time to Pay arrangement, including:

  • your unique tax reference (UTR) number;
  • your bank account details; and
  • details of any payments you have missed.

HMRC will ask you whether you can pay in full (if you can, they will expect that you do), how much you can repay each month, if you owe other taxes, how much you earn, what your monthly outgoings are and what savings and investments you have. If you have assets or savings, HMRC expect that you will use these to pay any tax that you owe.

Stick to the plan

Once you have agreed a Time to Pay arrangement, it is important that you make the payments in accordance with the plan, If you miss a payment HMRC will normally contact you to find out why, and where possible will restore the plan. However, if you continue to fault, HMRC will seek to collect the debt in full.

If further tax liabilities arise that you cannot pay, it may be possible to amend the plan to include these.